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And The “Huh, Not Bad” Certificate of Achievement Goes To: The 2013 Oscars

It didn’t really matter how the 85th Annual Academy Awards (is it still okay to call them the Academy Awards? I know those crazy youngsters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are trying to bring in to kids by calling them simply “The Oscars”) went after the first ten minutes were through. I just didn’t care. Not that I had particularly deep thoughts one way or the other about them, but after the opening sequence, I was ready for anything.

That’s because for a few glorious minutes, William Shatner was Captain James Tiberius Kirk again.

For a very brief period of time in what has been a fairly dismal year, everything in my own personal world was perfect.

It was a surprise on a show that hasn’t really surprised me for years. It was also a surprise on a show that still didn’t really surprise me all that much. The people I expected to win won, and they were by and large people whose work I enjoy, so a lot of my night was spent doing exhaustive things like shrugging, and muttering “Well, yeah, I kind of figured.”

The show is over, so it’s even more pointless than ever to bitch about the movies, performers and others who should have gotten nominated, or those who didn’t. Being briefly irritated about these things gives me the privilege of indulging my movie nerd side, but there a few thousand things in the world far more deserving of my more serious irritation and my anger.

I’m a lot more irritated, for example, that The Onion thought it was okay to call Quvenzhané Wallisa a word that was about nine million miles over the line of the joke they were trying to make (people have been making cracks about supposedly sweet little kids actually being horrible little bastards for years, but what the fuck were you thinking, Onion?), than I was by Seth MacFarlane making jokes I expected Seth MacFarlane to make. If anything, they were a lot tamer than I was expecting.

But people will be offended, and they’re entitled to be. I just wasn’t. From a comedy perspective, some of MacFarlane’s jokes were funny, and some of them were awful. He hit more than he missed as far as I’m concerned, and he was the best Oscar host we’ve had in years. I’m a lot more offended by Emad Burnat (he was nominated for 5 Broken Cameras, which I really need to see at some point) and his family being detained and abused by U.S. Customs for several hours. You can also be offended about everything, which I would imagine gets pretty exhausting after a while.

I’m also curious to know just what in the hell was wrong with Joaquin Phoenix. My guess is four or five gallons of Jack Daniels behind the theater with some of the ushers, but you just never can tell with the guy. I hope he got the hug he clearly needed.

What the hell can you really say about this show? It was movie stars patting themselves on the back. There’s a great quote kicking around Tumblr that’s taken from a Peter Bogdonavich documentary, where James Stewart and Cary Grant talk about The Oscars being a small gathering of industry professionals getting together to get drunk, and give each other awards. It’s still pretty much this that, but on a much larger, more bloated, and boring scale than anyone who organized the first ceremony could ever imagine. It’s the same as any “big dance” kind of event for just about anything. Watching any of that stuff requires a certain amount of self-aware irony of watching something you’re already geared up to complain about. You have to have a sense of humor about something that’s extremely unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

I’m not saying it’s wrong or stupid to watch The Oscars, share photos on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest, rant about the winners and losers, and discuss the fashion to obsessive lengths (which I don’t get at all, but that’s okay). I’m just saying that within the context of what the show is celebrating, film, that this is a very small thing. It’s a part of film, but it’s not as big a part of film as the show itself seems to think it is.

I dig that Daniel Day-Lewis won a record third Best Actor for Lincoln. It was another non-surprise, but he’s a pretty representative for everything about film in this day and age that’s still pretty damn amazing. He was appreciative of an Award that does have some worthy history behind it, in terms of the films and talent that won before him. That’s cool. It still doesn’t mean this show is a big deal (says the man who has written almost a thousand words about it at this point). I will never understand people who get obsessively happy or angry about the show (and I think there’s something to be said the people who are so indifferent about the show that they felt compelled to tell us this). Anything more than a few moments of concentration towards The Oscars strikes me as running the risk of excessive attention.

I’ve noticed that even people who didn’t like Lincoln thought Daniel Day-Lewis was phenomenal. His performance is something I can point to as one of the reasons why I’m still spending so much of my time watching movies. A lot of the nominees from the 2013 Oscars (I’m thinking of Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Quvenzhané Wallis, Ben Affleck, Denzel Washington, Quentin Tarantino, and several others) are indeed great examples of their particular branch of the industry. Others who didn’t get nominated deserved to. It’s always been like that. It’s probably always going to be like that. I live with that fairly well. I learned to after realizing I was getting way too wound up over Bill Murray losing to Sean Penn (but still, come on, Sean fucking Penn? Really? REALLY?).

Am I glad I watched the show this year? Yeah—Jack-goddamn-Nicholson and Michele Obama make for an automatic one star out of four. There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot else to do, and it was the kind of entertaining show it really hasn’t been for a few years.

If Seth MacFarlane came back to host next year, I wouldn’t complain. He was the best host in ages, and as the last several years has pointed out to us, we could do a hell of a lot worse. And to the people who hated his performance, found everything he did disgusting, boring, distasteful, and all the rest, there is in fact one triumph he achieved that none of us can argue. He made Tommy Lee Jones smile (or at least pretend to, which might be as good as it gets with him), and in doing so, he made us all discover the true meaning of Christmas. Or something. It doesn’t really matter either way.